Indian Classical Art Set to Soar –

Indian Classical Art Set to Soar –

mah016I am really looking forward to seeing the new “Maharaja: the Splendour of India’s Royal Courts” exhibition which will be opening at the Victoria and Albert museum in London on the 10th of October. According to the V&A website “The heyday of the maharajas began in earnest after the collapse of the Mughal empire in the early 18th century. The exhibition will open with this period of chaos and adventure and will close at the end of British rule in 1947, when Indian princes acceded their territories into the modern states of India and Pakistan.”

Although it may not seem that exciting, this exhibition is a very important exhibition in my opinion because of the extent to which historic Indian works of art are undervalued. One of the reasons for this is the lack of cultural sector infrastructure in India which means that there is relatively little scholarly or curatorial attention paid to the works of the 18th and 19th centuries. In particular, the work of 18th century Indian artists is particularly impressive and is very highly valued because of the significant events that happened at this time that were important to the history of India. With so many wealthy people in India who are becoming more interested in fine art and cultural objects, I believe that it is inevitable that the value of classical works of art and other objects that have cultural and historical significant will increase in value very shortly.

Although a number of Indian billionaires have had their wealth decreased by the financial crisis (until last year India had the highest number of billionaires in Asia), there are still 24 Billionaires in India according to Forbes magazine (March 2009), which gives India the 6th highest number of Billionaires – only 4 billionaires behind China and two spots on the list. India was ahead of China in the 2008 rankings when they had 54 billionaires but is now behind them due to the financial crisis but the outlook for Indian’s economy is very good and is even tipped to overtake the Chinese economy.

In relation to the art market, I think that a comparison between China and India is very relevant. Both countries have a rich cultural history, and both countries are experiencing an increase in new wealth which has given more people the means to indulge their passion for fine art and cultural objects. The art market boom showed that a major increase in the number of wealthy people in a certain country usually results in what is essentially a buy back of that countries historic and cultural artefacts from abroad. This happened with Russia, Japan, China and is sure to happen with India.

Althought the market for contemporary Indian art has been hit particularly hard by the financial crisis combined with the lack of patronanage as well as the lack of curatorial and scholarly attention given to India’s contemporary artists, the work of the well known modern Indian masters has faired remarkably well. There is obviously still a considerable amount of wealth in India that is available to be spent but as with other art markets around the world, buyers are being much more discerning and careful with their money in light of recent events. Works of art that are seen to have cultural and historic value have the characteristics (stability and justifiable value) that buyers are looking for at the moment.

My big tip for 2010 is that Indian classical art will increase in value considerably so my advice is to take advantage of the very low prices that such works are being offered for at the moment.

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

2 Responses

  1. I have a special interest in Indian Miniatures of the Basholi tradition(about 40 years old)and am commissioning works from an artist who is the 10th generation of a family that practised this art form

  2. Hi Nick,

    Great to see this subject at your blog. Our company is into production of these artifcats and handicrafts. Nick, what would be the best way to capture the US and Aussie market. Any pointers would be helpful.


    Ps: I now blog at and not at Mutant Ideas.

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